Economic Patriotism: The Limits of European Market Integration

Cornelia Woll and Ben Clift, University of Warwick

Proponents of European integration are currently concerned about the rise in economic nationalism. This project begins with the hypothesis that such policies are far from exceptional. We argue that the dynamics underpinning such interventions are shaped by a specific set of tensions facing governments and policy-makers who seek to negotiate compromises between universal notions of economic prosperity and territorially bound political obligations. Economic nationalism, or – as the French have called it – economic patriotism, is one possible reaction to this tension and it is common to both liberal market economies and organized market economies.

Economic patriotism is more than just a fashionable word or a fig leaf for protectionism and we employ the term to signal two distinctions: the diversity of policy content and the multiplicity of territorial units it can refer to. Economic patriotism, just like economic nationalism, needs to be defined by its territorial references and its underlying conceptions of political economic space, but it does not contain a coherent set of policy prescriptions. It merely requires that economic choices – be they liberal or protectionist – serve the interest of a given territorial unit. Thus, equating protectionism or neo-mercantilism with economic patriotism obscures the importance and the multiple facets of the phenomenon in current political debates. In particular, it does not allow analyzing when politicians chose liberal economic choices as a selective strategy to further national interest. The key difference between economic patriotism and economic nationalism is that unlike economic nationalism, economic patriotism is agnostic about the precise shape or nature of the unit claimed as patrie. It can incorporate local patriotism (“Lokalpatriotismus” common in the German language), such as the defense of regional autonomy through an agreement on labels of protected origins in the World Trade Organization, and supranational patriotism, which is exemplified by the “fortress Europe” debate. Thus economic patriotism allows us to study a transfer of economic objectives from the national to a supranational level, such as the European Union, which can lead to liberalisation within the EU for the sake of protection towards the outside, as for example in agriculture. The prism of economic patriotism is thus useful for studying how policy-makers negotiate territorial obligations and economic goals in a variety of political economic settings. It also underlines that European integration will consistently have to struggle with this tension as long as political and economic boundaries do not match.

The research project is organized jointly by Ben Clift and Cornelia Woll and brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines to analyze the dynamic of economic patriotism in European and the US. It is financed by a Franco-British “Partenariat Hubert Curien” awarded jointly by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the British Council in 2008 and 2009. Contributors to this project are (in alphabetic order): Despina Alexiadou, Simon Bromley, Helen Callaghan, Colin Crouch, Wyn Grant, Emiliano Grossman, Michel Goyer, Catherine Hoeffler, Christopher Holmes, Patrick Le Galès, Glenn Morgan, Ben Rosamond, Leonard Seabrooke, and Nicolas Véron.


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